Two bullets for Land Rover BAR
Ben Ainslie and Jimmy Spithill enjoyed big recoveries on Saturday to vault to the top of the leaderboard at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Muscat, Oman.
Ainslie and his team were the class act. After incurring a penalty for starting prematurely in the first race, Land Rover BAR sailed back up the fleet to salvage a third place finish. They followed this with two victories, to finish the day four points clear at the top of the leaderboard.
With breeze holding between six and eight knots boat handling was about flying hulls rather than foiling the AC45’s and staying out of trouble. This there was no shortage of action despite the light wind conditions with multiple passes, penalties and lead changes. Land Rover BAR were pushed over the line by Groupama Team France in the first race, and had to take a penalty, but with fast boat speed and good tactical decisions they recovered to place third.
The second race saw a flawless start give the team a big lead at the first mark, that they then built on to win comfortably. But they saved the best for last, lying fourth at the first mark, they passed Emirates Team New Zealand, Softbank Team Japan and finally the holder of the America's Cup, Oracle Team USA, to score their second bullet of the day.
America's Cup World Series - Régates du 27/02... by CANALPLUS
But Ainslie said it was anything but easy in the light winds: “These conditions make it very challenging for everyone on board. You need a decent start and to go the right way, so it’s tough on the tacticians. And then the big Code Zero headsails make for hard work for everyone else. It’s a big day for the team.
"A really big day for the Tacticians. Giles Scott did an awesome job for us, getting us going in the right direction and making the right choices on the modes that we sailed the boat, and the sails that we used."
"The team work was the key to the day in these conditions, you need good starts, and you need to go the right way, but the crew work has to be perfect. If you miss a manoeuvre it costs you hundreds of metres; they [the crew] did a really good job today."
Giles Scott, Land Rover BAR Tactician added: "We're really pleased with that [second] race, it was a case of keeping it simple. The manoeuvres are so costly, so you have to get a good start, we did that then it was a question of getting to the bottom gate and staying clean from there.
"We had a little chat about the start [of the second race], and we thought the line was reasonably even with a slight preference to the leeward end. Normally it's really congested down there, but Ben did a great job of owning that end, it was a really good start and we came good from there."
Paul 'CJ' Campbell James: "Day one of Oman was as expected with light winds, we have done a lot of training in these conditions back home and it really paid off today. We are moving forward through the fleet which always feels good. And especially in the last race we seemed to have good speed, good boat handling and good tactics, and that won us the race so everyone is really happy with race day one in Muscat."
Oracle Team USA appeared to be in jeopardy at several points during the afternoon, but when the points overall at the end of racing Jimmy Spithill and the US team were lying in second overall.
“Racing in these conditions is something we know we have to work on, so this has been great for us,” Spithill said. “I thought Tom Slingsby did a great job finding the wind. I think the boys took a step in the last race on our boat speed. There’s still a lot to learn in the light stuff. We want to get better in these conditions. We’re improving each race.”
Emirates Team New Zealand sped away to a ‘horizon job’ victory in the first race, but fell back into the fleet later in the afternoon. For skipper Glenn Ashby it simply felt good to be out competing again: “Great racing out there today. It’s been so long since we all battled it out. It felt good. We had a great first race, but unfortunately we got bounced around a bit in the last one.
“The breeze kept things tight. There was a lot of gas and wind shadows to contend with, unfortunately we got bounced around a bit in the third race, but the teams that kept their nose clean were the ones who came out on top and at the end of the day Land Rover BAR did the best job of it for sure.”
Despite the challenges Ashby remained optimistic, “As with all of these world series events, with the Sunday double points races, the regatta basically starts from scratch again tomorrow. So we will take many of the lessons we learned today and be ready to go for tomorrow. “We are always learning, the whole year is about learning for us and while we conceded about three points overall, the main positive to take from today is we are still on top of the overall leader board, and that’s where we want to be by the end of the day tomorrow.”
SoftBank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker found himself in familiar territory. His team flashed some brilliance, but couldn’t maintain this through a full race: “I’m happy with the improvements we’re making,” he said. “We can see that we’re getting better. The last one was frustrating. It was looking so good for a while. But one mistake can be so costly. We’re just making little errors and in this fleet you get punished for it.”
Artemis Racing tactician Iain Percy had to take solace from the good moments as the team didn’t get any breaks, ending the day equal points at the bottom of the leaderboard with Groupama Team France: “I’m really happy with the way we sailed and our speed, we just didn’t get the normal clean starts we needed. We were going fast and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. If we get our start, it will be hard to catch us.”
Adam Minoprio, sailing in his first Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event on the helm of Groupama Team France said he needs to get better starts to earn better results at the finish: “The startline line was pretty short so there wasn’t a lot of room. I don’t think I was aggressive enough. But the team kept it together and we managed to claw back points around the race course. I need to fight for my spot. The other guys have been doing these reaching starts for a year already, so I need to learn fast.”
Fortunately for Minoprio and the others chasing Ainslie, the regatta format offers a chance at salvation. Super Sunday racing has double scoring points on offer in all three races scheduled. So the leaderboard may look very different in 24 hours.
1. Land Rover BAR - 8, 10, 10 - 28 points
2. Oracle Team USA - 9, 6, 9 - 24 points
3. Emirates Team NZ - 10, 7, 5 - 22 points
4. SoftBank Team Japan - 6, 9, 6 - 21 points
5. Artemis Racing - 7, 5, 8- 20 points
6. Groupama Team France - 5, 8, 7 - 20 points